Sunday, December 12, 2010

St. Spiridon: A True Servant of the Lord

As we well know, fame and position in life can often cause a person to change. St. Spiridon, certainly did not fall into that category. He was born on the island of Cyprus in the early part of the fourth century, and spent most of his life there in service of Christ and His Church. The son of a poor farmer, Spiridon lived in an area where no schools had been established. His parents recognized his brightness, however, and with the help of their parish priest, they were able to see that he received a fine secular and religious education. St. Spiridon married, and was ordained a priest. He was assigned to serve a rural community, where he soon founded a school for the neighbouring farm children.

Upon the death of his wife, Spiridon was elected “Bishop of Trimythous.” This rise in prominence had no effect on his lifestyle; he continued to live a humble, simple life. It is said that once he was invited to appear before the Emperor in his imperial court. He was dressed so shabbily that one of the soldiers on duty there thought he was a beggar and refused to let him in!

St. Spiridon was one of the 318 bishops who attended the First Ecumenical Councils in Nicaea in 325 AD. The minutes of the Council sessions tell us that he was instrumental in clearly defining the dogmas of the Church that were under debate at this historic gathering.

Sadly, during the latter years of his life, St. Spiridon fell victim to pagan persecution by the followers of Arius – the Alexandrian priest condemned as a heretic by the first Council. He spent many years in prison, all the while suffering in silence. He died in 348 AD and was buried on the island of Corfu. After some 1600 years, his body is still amazingly well-preserved, and many miracles are still attributed to him by those who pray for his intercession.
Orthodox Weekly Bulletin ... Vestal, Cliffwood, New Jersey ... Litho in U.S.A.

Troparion of St. Spiridon (Tone 1)
Thou did appear as a contender for the First Council and a wonder-worker, O our Father, God-mantled Spiridon. Therefore, thou did converse with the dead woman in the tomb and did convert a serpent into gold. And at thy chanting of the holy prayers, the Angels did accompany thee in the service. O most pure one, glory be to Him who glorified thee; glory be to Him who crowned thee; glory be to Him who worketh healing for all through thee.

The following information on St. Spiridon is adapted from OrthodoxWiki, explains the items in the troparion above:
Our father among the saints Spiridon of Trimythous the Wonderworker was a fourth century bishop who was present at the First Ecumenical Council. He is also commonly referred to in Corfu as Keeper of the City, since he is also the patron saint of that island (this is where his relics are located and venerated). He is commemorated by the church on December 12.

Spiridon was born in the village of Ashia (askia - "without shade"), Cyprus (270 AD) and died in Trimythous, Cyprus (348 AD). He was a peasant farmer and shepherd and was not educated. Spyridon was married and had a daughter, Irene. After his wife died, he and his daughter both entered into monasticism. He later became the Bishop of Trimythous (during the reign of Constantine the Great) and continued in piety for which he was greatly known.

As he grew in the love of God and man, God gave him the gift of healing the sick and driving out demons with a single word. As a result of his holy life and the miracles God performed through him, Spiridon was chosen and ordained bishop of his home town, the city of Trimythous on the island of Cyprus during the reign of St. Constantine the Great.

Called to take part in the Council of Nicaea in 325, Spiridon, though not well-educated, surprised everyone by converting a famous philosopher to Orthodoxy from Arianism. He explained the unity and diversity of the Trinity by holding up a brick, then commonly thought to be a combination of the elements fire, earth and water; as he spoke, fire blazed from the top of the brick while water gushed out underneath. There too, at Nicea, he met St. Nicholas of Myra, with whom he formed a lasting friendship.

When he arrived back home a woman told him that she had given his daughter, Irene, who had died while he was gone, several valuable pieces of jewelry for safekeeping. Now that his daughter was dead, no one could find where she had hidden them. Spiridon went to her grave, spoke to her, and was able to restore the jewelry to its owner.

During a famine Spiridon changed a snake into gold pieces so that a poor man could buy food from a greedy merchant who had cornered the supply.

One day there was only himself and the deacon and readers in church at vespers, and the responses could be heard beautifully chanted by an unseen choir. The music was so beautiful that others, passing by, heard it and saw through the windows what seemed like a large congregation. Entering the church, however, they found only St. Spyridon and his assistants.

St. Spyridon lived most of his earthly life in Cyprus, where he also reposed in 348 AD and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Trimythous.

When the Saracens took the island, the Cypriots opened his grave in order to remove his sacred bones to Constantinople. They found that his body had remained intact, while from the grave emanated a scent of basil, true signs of the sainthood he had shown during his lifetime. When Constantinople fell in 1453, he was transferred to Serbia, then a Corfiot elder, Georgios Kalohairetis, brought him to the island of Corfu in Greece where he is currently buried.

To this day St. Spiridon's incorrupt relics at his shrine in Corfu continue to manifest the power of God, wondrous in His saints. He is called the "walking saint" because the silk slippers which clothe the feet of his relics wear out each year and are replaced on his feast day. His miracle in Corfu against the Turkish invasion of 1716 is commemorated on August 11.

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